Delaware is again among the states leading the nation in solar energy -ranked seventh per capita for cumulative solar installations - according to a report released by Environment America Research & Policy Center. Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States That Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013 attributed Delaware’s leadership, energy legislation, strong public policies and innovative financing options for the solar boom in the state.
“Encouraging solar power is the right thing to do for the environment and our economy,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “We are aggressively working toward a clean energy future in Delaware, demonstrating we can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment."
Since December 2008, the state’s solar capacity has grown from two megawatts to 59 megawatts. In the past 12 months alone, Delaware has installed 256 solar systems totaling nearly 11 megawatts.
“Working closely with the local solar industry, Delaware has emerged as a national leader in solar energy by adopting progressive policies and programs that have led to a 29-fold increase in new solar installations since 2008,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small.
In the report, Delaware was cited with other leading solar states for cutting-edge energy legislation and policies that are among the most aggressive in the county. Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that 25 percent of the state’s electricity is to come from renewable energy sources by 2025, and the solar carve-out of 3.5 percent from solar by 2025 are creating vigorous markets here for solar energy.
The state’s strong net metering and interconnection policies, which allow customers to sell excess solar power back to the grid, are among the most progressive in the country. Through Markell’s Executive Order 18, state government is leading by example by getting 1 percent of its electricity procurement from in-state solar energy, while bringing down the overall cost of power for state agencies.
Working closely with the state’s Renewable Energy Task Force and Delmarva Power and Light, Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility has helped create a stable market for new solar power projects in Delaware by conducting auctions for long-term Solar Renewable Energy Credit contracts on behalf of Delmarva Power. Delmarva Power buys most of its SRECs through this long-term contracting mechanism, which makes it easier to finance new projects of all sizes.
As a result of competition and market efficiencies, installation costs and corresponding SREC prices have fallen sharply over the last two years, which means lower compliance costs for ratepayers. These policies and programs are helping Delawareans take advantage of the 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar PV installations on residential and commercial properties.
DNREC, in conjunction with the SEU, launched a new Joint Green Energy Program Aug. 3 in which the SEU will contribute $1.5 million annually for two years to purchase SRECs up front from the installation of residential solar systems.
Through the federal Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant program, 15 of the state’s towns, including Newport, Bowers Beach, and Ellendale, installed solar power systems on their municipal buildings.
The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, a wholesale electric utility, and its nine member municipalities have collectively invested in Delaware’s largest PV facilities - the Milford Solar Farm generating more than 13 megawatts and the 10-megawatt Dover Sun Park. Wilmington, Dover, and Kent and New Castle county governments have installed solar power on their office and public works facilities.
Another large solar project, the Delaware Electric Cooperative’s Bruce A. Henry Solar Energy Farm near Georgetown, was completed last summer. The $14 million, 20-acre facility uses 16,000 solar panels to produce four megawatts of energy, enough to power 500 rural Sussex homes. The facility has the option to expand to 40 acres, with the ability to produce power for 1,000 homes.
The Solar Energy Power Association’s June report, Solar Market Comes of Age in 2013, has ranked the cities of Milford and Dover first and seventh respectively in the nation for public power cumulative solar watts per customer. SEPA’s report also recognized the City of Lewes as 10th in the nation for solar penetration, as well as naming the Delaware Electric Cooperative in the top 10 in four solar-related categories.
For more information about solar power in Delaware, including the Green Energy Program, go to www.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy/Pages/default.aspx.